Christmas in NYC Part 2: Visiting Santa at Macy’s 34th St (and a big tip!)

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New York City has tons to offer those who come wanting some “Holiday Cheer”, but number one Holiday activity on our list had to be a visit with the real Santa at Macy’s on 34th Street. With our almost three year old, being able to visit Santa in a setting as fine at Santaland at Macy’s is beyond magical. Mall Santas ain’t got nothing on this set-up. We knew there would be a long line to visit, and I went so far as to search the internet for things like “VIP passes/packages” or “fast passes” for our Santa visit that would help us curtail some of the line. I am not above spending a little cash to skip out on an hour long line with a two year old. However, my search didn’t turn up anything helpful. Basically, I learned that you should get there early and avoid the weekends if possible. I also learned that the lines get longer as you get closer to Christmas.

Unfortunately, we could not avoid a weekend visit on our trip, but we did do our best to get there early. As is typical in our family, getting out the door in the morning took longer than we hoped, so we got there about an hour after opening. That meant about an hour’s wait in line was ahead of us. It is entirely possible that the line gets even longer than that in the afternoon. I know that a visit to Macy’s on 34th Street during the holidays is something that many families have on their “lists”, so I want to devote a post just to that event.

Here is what we learned, and documented, in our adventures in the line to see the Santa.

First, we went up to the eighth floor (use the elevators if you are hauling a stroller) and we found where the line ended. You then immediately enter a maze-like world full of twists, turns, and happy elves. They estimated the line to be about an hour, but insisted that it goes very quickly and that Santa is waiting for us.


Our first turn was through the tunnel of red.


We then detoured through the fluorescent forest.


Up next was a pass by the Human Resource Center. Who knew the North Pole was so corporate??!!


After a lap or two around the HR and training classrooms (elves need CBTs, too), we re-entered a more colorful hallway.


We even got to enjoy some original artwork!!


Our adventure then took us back through another tunnel of red…it is a popular color around the North Pole.


Once we emerged from the maze of hallways, things got really good. We started to actually enter Santaland. We boarded the Polar Express train where we got to ring the bell and actually feel the vibrations of the “train” in the floor boards.




We strolled by the North Pole’s Visitor Center and started to enjoy the view.




I guess someone knew we had been in line a long time, as they even give encouragement as to how much further you have to venture to see the main attraction. Just 76 more steps!!


Once we got to that point and started going on pure candy cane adrenaline, we knew we could make it. It was a breeze getting over the rainbow bridge.


We hauled right past the Christmas train.


Then things started to get real and the pressure of asking for the perfect present started to intensify.


Looking at a few more holiday displays was enough to take the pressure off.


As we closed in on Santa, our kiddo started to dance in celebration!


We rounded the corner into the last section and were greeted with the proclamation that there were “Only 24 More Days Til Christmas”!


The reindeer were celebrating with excitement!


The bunnies were dancing with glee!

20121204-153548.jpgSanta’s mailbox was even available should your list be longer (or more private) than what you wish to reveal during your one-on-one session.

20121204-153555.jpgHis sleigh was parked right outside, ready for the big night.

20121204-153601.jpgIf you looked hard, it was possible to catch a glimpse of him inside the crystal ball. My the North Pole is high tech these days.

20121204-153609.jpgAnd then it happened. A cheery elf came to personally meet us and escort us to Santa. It was dark and mysterious, but that made it all that more exciting.

20121204-153618.jpgWe made a final turn, and the spotlight revealed the man we had waited for through the tunnels, mazes, HR department, Polar Express, and Santaland. He was here. He was real!

20121204-153628.jpgAfter a few seconds of a “warming up period”, it was time to smile for a picture and make the all important request.

20121204-153638.jpgFor the record, it was a Doc McStuffins that made the cut. She delivered her request like a champ. No tears, no hesitation. Merry Christmas to all – now hurry the heck up as there are eleventy billion more children behind you.

20121204-153647.jpgWe made it through the line with no tears and very minimal fussing. I thought we had done fantastic until two days later when I got these photos sent to me by my mom who had returned to Macy’s to do some shopping.


Um what in the holy candy cane forest is that? Express pass? How had my internet search skills forsaken me?


20121204-175318.jpgMy understanding is that you get to the express pass kiosk on the 9th floor. You can still go through the last part of the line with the express pass, but skip the red tunnels, HR tour, etc. The Santaland portion of our wait was maybe 15-20 minutes, and was actually quite enjoyable. Express pass?! Head, meet desk. Now you know. I would have totally gone over to Macy’s a few days in advance to get an Express Pass for our Saturday morning visit if I would have known it was there.

It was still worth it with the long line, but now that I know this little tip it is even better for next time.

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  1. Apparently there’s an app for that:

    Macys Santaland
    Santaland on 8
    November 23- December 24

    Take the express to Santaland. With Macys updated app, you have got a VIP ticket to bypass the crowds in Santaland and go right to Santas Village. Just download the app and select Herald Square from the “Stores” option. Theyn, book your time and use your Express Pass to meet Santa. iPhone and Android friendly.

  2. Cute. I’m not much for christmas, but seeing excited kiddos is always fun.

    As for the express pass – yet another learning experience!

  3. There’s an app?! Where were all you folks a few weeks ago?! Ha ha. Live and learn….but we would have missed the florescent forest. 😉

  4. I fear that you many be going down the same long lines path if you our venturing to Beaver Creek on MLK weekend. Never, ever, ever attempt to ski on a three day weekend. And if one has their hearts set on ice skating at Central or Bryant Park on the weekend, it is a Madhouse. I went this past Wednesday

  5. Great post! Little C is so cute! Was there a fee for the express pass?

    How frustrating to actually have the forethought to search for the pass and not find it. I would have never thought of that!

  6. Looks like fun once you get through the tunnels from hell and the office. Bypassing the line is what we are about so I would suggest that next time.

  7. Hey Mommy, my hubby and I have taking our 2 boys there a few times and we all love it ! We are situated here in NYC, so that makes it that much easier for us of course… You really feel like you are in a magic place when you walk through it ! your pics are great and your lil’ one is adorable.

    Here is another nice place to see (for FREE) in Manhattan, NYC

    And another (not Free, but there are MasterCard discounts and special offers) Bronx Botanical Garden’s TRAIN Show !!

  8. Blaine, snarky, me?! Never! 😉
    Lynn, that sounds awesome! Macy’s has a santa army, so I am sure some are better than others. 😉
    HopeIWin, weekends are always busy for sure. We did iceskating on Sunday morning in Bryant Park, and it was brisk, but not overwhelming in the AM. I’m sure it got crazier as it got later.
    Poptarts, thanks and no charge!
    DaninSTL, I agree that skipping the tunnels is the way to go. Express Pass next time for sure.
    MommyofTwo, thanks for the info and you are right it is a magical place (after the tunnels of course). 😉

  9. I can’t seem to find the express pass on the app this year. There are no little adds for it under event, like last year. Anyone have any idea?

  10. Hi, my family and I are visiting NY for Christmas. There are 15 of us ranging in age from 10 months to 69 years and every year we all have our photo taken with Santa in Australia. Does anyone know if there is a problem with all of us fitting in a photo with Santa in Macys?

  11. Hi, I am visiting New York from Yorkshire, England in December and am sooooooooo excited. I would like to take my daughter to see Santa at Macys (well…me really!) but she is 34. Is there an age limit?ps I really really want to go to Santaland xx

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